Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program

Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program

Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program. I’m Greg Martin with today’s Line On Agriculture.

Arguably the biggest issue in agriculture right now is the lack of a strong, legal work force. There have been a lot of idea thrown around but now a farm worker program in Canada is being eyed as a model around the world. Ken Forth of Canada's Foreign Agricultural Resource Management Services.

FORTH: We bring workers from islands in the Caribbean and we bring them from Mexico. It’s been a program that’s been in place since 1966. In ’66 we brought in 264 workers as a pilot. To date in Ontario we bring in 1500. Across the country there’s probably about 27-thousand people come in on this program to work in pretty much the horticulture industry.

He talks about how the program operates

FORTH: It’s a government to government program that is to the top level of all governments, also involves the employers. We just did our meeting with the Canadian government/Mexican government yesterday and it has been a tri-party deal forever. The Mexican folks represent their workers and the Canadian government represents Canada and the employers represent the employers here. There’s not much that goes back and forth in that. Most of it is administration and that’s been the thing that we have been able to address over all these years.

Forth tells how Canadian farmers have benefitted from the Seasonal Worker Program.

FORTH: The grower has to apply to get workers each year and every year whether he’s had them for 30 years or not and he has to get a labor market opinion. That’s what they call it. He has to put that form into the government. If he’s been on the program a long time and nothing has really changed in the job market the government usually approves that in 1-10 days. If it’s a new grower - probably they’re going to get a phone call, a little bit of an interview. It might take a little bit longer but it’s always under 10 days. Lots of times it’s the same day so we’ve streamlined that. So when we took it over, the administration work, we do all the work with the foreign countries. We also do the travel and that makes it really work because the travel’s in the office with our administration arm and so there’s no phone calls back and forth to different travel agencies.

He also talks about workers benefits.

FORTH: Every worker that comes in is covered by the workmen’s compensation boards. In Ontario they are covered by our provincial health care system so the workers are covered just like everyone else in Ontario. They also contribute by payroll deductions like they pay our Canadian taxes and our unemployment insurance and our Canada pension plan.

That’s today’s Line On Agriculture. I’m Greg Martin on the Ag Information Network. 

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